Honoring Excellence: Q and A with Bernadett R. Mahanay, BA

February 24, 2023

This interview is one in a series of interviews with recipients of the 2023 ACGME Awards. The awardees join an outstanding group of previous honorees whose work and contributions to graduate medical education (GME) represent the best in the field. They will be honored at the ACGME Annual Educational Conference, taking place this week in Nashville, Tennessee, from February 23-25, 2023.

2023 Debra L. Dooley GME Program Coordinator Excellence Awardee Bernadett R. Mahanay, BA is the fellowship programs manager for anesthesiology, peri-operative and pain medicine at Stanford Health Care, Stanford University School of Medicine.


ACGME: How did you become involved in academic medicine? 

Mahanay: I’ve worked in the Department of Anesthesiology for almost 23 years at Stanford University School of Medicine in various roles and positions. Having joined the department in 2000 as a research administrator, after a few years in the role, I was interested in branching out to other career pathways. In 2004, I was presented the opportunity to interview with the Anesthesia Education Services (AES) team for a fellowship coordinator position, and I am so glad I did! I have worked with the AES team for the past 19 years in multiple roles: fellowship coordinator, fellowship supervisor, and now fellowship programs manager. When I first joined the AES team, I did not realize a career in GME would be my true calling. It wasn’t until ACGME Milestones 1.0 and the American Board of Anesthesiology’s introduction of other curriculum changes that I gravitated more towards GME. I was initially enticed by curriculum development and assessments allowing us to build and develop a top-notch education and training curriculum for our learners. I then started reading JGME [Journal of Graduate Medical Education] articles and joined institutional committees to get more involved and build community/relationships with my GME colleagues. During the last 10 years of my GME coordinator journey, initiatives such as diversity, wellness, and global health have brought excitement, growth, and new educational pathways allowing me to innovate and provide tremendous opportunities to our fellows. 

ACGME: What does this award mean to you? 

Mahanay: I am truly grateful and honored to receive such a prestigious award. I’ve had the opportunity over the past 19 years to be involved with GME work under the anesthesia fellowship training programs. These programs influence and drive change through innovation and the ability to make a difference through human advancements. This award exemplifies my ACGME knowledge, expertise, and values rooted in a culture of excellence, innovation, collaboration, and lifelong learning dedicated to preparing GME learners for leadership to be independent physicians in their field.   

ACGME: What is the most rewarding part of being a coordinator?

Mahanay: As a GME programs manager, I pride myself on being a progressive thinker, a change agent, and embracing challenges. Seeking opportunities to provide professional and personal development to our faculty members and fellows, in turn, allows them to focus on safe and high-quality care of their patients. The definitions of “success” and “reward” may vary for each of us, but for me, in my career as a GME leader, they imply:

  • Finding value and joy in our day-to-day work, waking up each day with a smile knowing those we serve (learners and faculty members) and the work we provide makes a difference within our communities.
  • Inspiring, motivating, and mentoring other GME coordinators and educators locally, nationally, or beyond.
  • Providing emotional and social support to our learners and faculty members, allowing us to build lifelong friendships.
  • Learning and empowering; allowing us to be the best we can be.

ACGME: What is the most challenging part of being a coordinator?

Mahanay: Early in my career as a new GME program coordinator, challenges were understanding various faculty leadership styles and identifying stakeholders. The complexity that comes with building sustainable relationships within the multifaceted communities, as a coordinator, brings many nuances. These challenges can be in the form of finding the right mentors and leaders to support your professional growth. Asking for help was a challenge early on in my career because I thought it was a sign of weakness. As a leader in GME, I now know asking for help does not imply failure; it is a sign of strength and courage.

ACGME: What advice do you have for brand new coordinators who are just starting their careers? 

Mahanay: I would advise new coordinators to disconnect once they leave work or walk away from their computers for breaks; it is essential and allows you to be fully present when needed. It is important to network with others within your own specialty and outside of our specialty, keep an open mind, actively listen to all stakeholders to understand their needs, and have fun learning and growing in your GME role. You can accomplish anything you set your mind to, and a career in GME is filled with many personal and professional development opportunities.

ACGME: Is there anything else you would like to add I haven’t asked about?

Mahanay: As a GME programs manager, I want my colleagues, faculty members, fellows, and other staff members to remember how I impacted their lives and made them feel during their time at Stanford Health Care. I pride myself on leading with compassion and kindness. Being fully present in all situations allows me to understand those around me. It is vital to building relationships and a community during your GME career; these relationships will carry you throughout your career, fulfill you, and bring you strength. There are many areas to develop as a GME program coordinator; it is key to take ownership of your career by finding pathways that provide you with engagement and passion. Finally, if I’ve helped others along their journey, whether through personal or professional development or otherwise, just the thought of knowing that I made an impact, that joy will continue to carry me through my career.


Learn more about the ACGME’s Debra L. Dooley GME Program Coordinator Excellence Award and nominate a deserving individual for the 2024 Award – nominations are due by March 15, 2023.